How I tried to fix my water basin
Author: Nguyen Thi Thanh Huyen, Center Manager, Mekong Capital
June 15th, 2023
There was a large basin filled with water. But for some unknown reason, the water level was steadily decreasing. A girl noticed this and began pouring more water into the basin to keep it full. But no matter how often she poured in water, the water level continued to drop. Frantically, she poured bucket after bucket of water and felt that she had no time to quickly filled the basin.
Until recently, I was that girl. My name is Huyen, and I am the Center Manager of the Admin Team at Mekong Capital. As the senior member of the team, I believed that my team expects a high standard of result delivery from me.
In March 2023, I took on the responsibility of Food & Beverage (F&B) logistics for an important investor event in June. We carefully planned every step and tracked the process closely with daily meetings to ensure the event’s success. However, three weeks later, after back-and-forth meetings with the project leader, I struggled to propose suitable menu options. Although there was already discussion about “what’s next” from the meetings, I still lacked confidence that the meals would be well-organized. My normally smiling pizza face turned into a frown oval face, whenever the menu task conversation came up.
At Mekong Capital, we have a culture of openly acknowledging when we are off-track or experiencing breakdowns. We encourage others to voice any problems that prevent us from delivering committed results and to reach out for help, as early as we detect it. By doing so, we ensure that everyone is aware of the obstacles and can work together to solve them.
“But it’s not off-track!” I thought to myself. “I still have time, and I know what to do next, so no off-track sharing meeting is needed. We just need to take all the actions we’ve discussed and hope the current blockage will be removed.”
Despite attempting to soothe myself with positive thoughts, I struggled silently. I took action with uncertainty and self-doubt. Time was flying, I was trying, and the final menu was still hanging. My confidence was decreasing day by day, and my frustration was building up. I worried that I might damage the event by delivering poor F&B service and negatively affecting the entire Admin team’s performance.
Yes, the basin’s water level was still decreasing, and I still couldn’t stop it.
In one meeting, Le, our Mekong’s Partner as well as my mentor, could see that I was struggling internally. But I still kept silent during the whole meeting. She asked me, “Why didn’t you share that you were off-track if you were stuck?” I answered, “I thought I knew what to do next.” Le continued to push, “If you did, then what happened that led to you not completing the menu proposal?” I was silent, speechless, and lost in thought. Finally, I admitted that I was stuck and didn’t want people to judge me for not delivering my job well.
Le shared with me: “Off-tracks are not something bad. It’s just a fact showing that we might not achieve the result we are committed to. So we simply deal with the fact, and find a new approach instead of feeling bad or beating ourselves up!”
This woke something up inside me. Do you know why I could not stop the water from reducing in the basin? Because instead of looking for the real reason for the water loss, I was only trying to solve the problem by adding more water. As a result, the real problem remained unfixed. I realized that I was not acknowledging the off-tracks I had. I could not see it just like I could not see the hole in the leaking basin, and I did not speak up about my uncertainties for I thought it could make me look bad.
I no longer believe that sharing with someone that I am off-track with a task will affect my credibility. Even experts and high-level managers experience doubts and setbacks. Declaring a breakdown simply means sharing with relevant people that my commitment is at risk. A meeting to transform a breakdown into a result is a simple conversation with them to find a new approach and get myself unstuck, rather than trying to solve the problems on my own in silence like I used to. It was amazing how much lighter I feel now that I’ve shifted my perspective and started acknowledging and declaring my breakdowns.
Upon discovering that, I reached out to the project leader to share that I was stuck with the menu task. She guided me to look out of the box and identified a new view and new way to deliver such a task. My relationship with such a task transformed. I was no longer stuck and eventually delivered the job smoothly.
Learning from that experience, I shared my findings with the Admin team. Since May, the Admin team adjusted our daily practice – we all started to share off-tracks and breakdowns more openly without worry and fear, so we can resolve them together. Our goal is to achieve breakthroughs in results. But breakthroughs only come from us seeing the off-tracks early and dealing with it powerfully. It means that identifying and acknowledging off-tracks are the essential focusing gateway that allows breakthroughs to happen!
This is the intention and meaning of one of Mekong Capital’s 15 elements in Mekong Capital’s Vision Driven Investing – Generating Breakthroughs, where we acknowledge that we are off-track, and openly declare it with our team members, and get the necessary coaching to discover new views, new context, new actions to be back on track, and ultimately achieve breakthrough results.
As a result, in the first week of May 2023, the Admin team doubled our weekly KPI for the number of WOW experiences of Mekongers, achieving this milestone for the first time! Our investor event in June went well, with the F&B service delivered to attendees’ satisfaction.
Well, I, the girl who was stuck with the decreasing water basin, finally found out why the water kept dropping. By getting to the source of the issue, I found a new approach to stop the dropping, just as one detects a hole in the water basin and fixes such a hole.
Have you checked the water level in your basin lately?
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Mekong Capital makes investments in consumer-driven businesses and adds substantial value to those companies based on its proven framework called Vision Driven Investing. Our investee companies are typically among the fastest-growing companies in Vietnam’s consumer sectors.
In January 2022, Mekong Capital founder Chris Freund published Crab Hotpot, a story about a bunch of crabs who found themselves stuck in a boiling pot. The colorful cover of “Crab Hot Pot,” complete with expressive cartoon crustaceans, looks like a children’s tale at first glance. But as one continues reading, it becomes clear that the work has an important message about organizational transformation, leadership and focusing on a clear vision for the future.